Family heartbroken over bridge death

The parents of Maungatapu Bridge crash victim Greg Woledge say the pain of "our broken hearts" is almost too much to bear - and his partner says her family's lives have been devastated forever.

They spoke out during an emotional sentencing hearing in Tauranga District Court yesterday for the man guilty of causing his death.

Iain Stewart Crisp, 45, of Papamoa Beach, was sentenced to 350 hours' community work, nine months' supervision, and ordered to pay $38,000 in emotional harm payments after earlier admitting driving and drug charges. There was no evidence cannabis found in his system contributed to the crash.

Crisp was disqualified for 12 months and must pay $27,134.60 in reparation - $16,134.60 for repairs to the bridge and $11,000 to Corey Ogle, whose car was also damaged last August 12 when Crisp's vehicle crossed the centre-line and collided head-on with 24-year-old Mr Woledge's work van.

The van crashed into the harbour with Mr Woledge and passenger Ashley Donkersley, 23, inside. Mr Donkersley escaped the van and Constable Deane O'Connor jumped off the bridge and rescued him.

Mr Woledge's parents, Kevin and Vivienne, and his partner of seven years, Chelsea Findsen, read their victim impact statements to Crisp in court.

Mrs Woledge told Crisp she and her husband and daughter Emma now struggled with their lives and driving over the bridge was a gruelling reminder.

"Losing a child, a son, is an emotional roller coaster - one thinks how you will get through life yourself, how his sister, partner and children will get through their lives without him.

"The impact of Greg's death is endless, a nightmare, something that should not have happened had you, the driver of the car been responsible ... We did not have our children to see them killed. You have left our two grandchildren fatherless.

"You have no idea the damage you have created to one little 3-year-old . How dare you take another person's life away with no consideration, no guilt, you have changed the whole dynamics of our close-knit family," she said.

"We miss Greg for his laughter, his humour and his concern for us and all around him. He was an innocent person going about his own person on his way home from a hard day's work to see and be with his family. We have been given a life-long sentence."

Ms Findsen was pregnant at the time of the crash. Their second daughter is now 4 months old.

She told Crisp one of hardest things was telling her eldest daughter, now 3, why "daddy's van" was missing.

"Our lives have been so empty without Greg and knowing he isn't coming back and trying to carry on without him has been the hardest thing ... I have felt so angry when I'm not normally an angry person. I'm now a 25-year-old widow of two small girls and my life has been altered for ever." she said.

"Greg was my rock and the love of my life and my child's life and it would have been no different for our new baby girl's life. Our lives have been devastated forever."

Outside court, Mr Woledge's parents told the Bay of Plenty Times they would never forgive Crisp and refused his offer to attend a restorative justice meeting.

"It has been a long, hard journey over the past eight months, and we are still in total disbelief and the pain of our broken hearts is almost too much to bear. This sentencing is never going to be enough [justice] for our family," Mrs Woledge said.

- Sandra Conchie of the Bay of Plenty Times

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